Lord Thabet, in a blue graduation gown and cap, smiles. There are trees in the background. Photo: Andy Zakeli

Family comes first for outstanding engineering graduate Lord Thabet

Family comes first for outstanding engineering graduate Lord Thabet

Thabet family celebrates third and final UOW graduation after fleeing Iraq in 2014

When Lord Thabet is asked to name her mentors, those who have inspired her or encouraged her during her time at the University of Wollongong (UOW), she doesn’t think twice: “My brothers.”

Lord is the youngest of three siblings, and the last to complete her studies at UOW. They are a family of engineers, with Lord and her older brothers Fadi and Majd all undertaking undergraduate degrees in engineering. (Fadi completed a Bachelor of Telecommunication Engineering (Honours) in 2019 while Majd graduated with a Bachelor of Mechatronic Engineering (Honours) the following year).

“My brothers are the most inspiring people to me,” said Lord, who will celebrate the conclusion of her own Bachelor of Telecommunication Engineering and Internet of Things (Honours) (Scholar) this week (Wednesday 12 April).

“They have such passion and determination and have supported me every step of the way through my studies. I am in awe of them studying their degrees twice. I feel so lucky to be following in their footsteps.”

Having three graduates, all siblings and all in the same engineering field, from the one university would be exceptional enough, but the story of Lord and her family is even more remarkable. In 2014, the family fled Mosul in Iraq as ISIS stormed the city. Fadi and Majd were at university, about to finish their engineering degrees, while Lord was in high school, studying incredibly hard to forge her own future.

The family were among the 500,000 civilians who left the city, their home and birthplace, with little to their name, other than their resilience and desire to build a new life in a place of safety.

They arrived in Australia in mid 2016, and Lord began to start over. She had no English, but she was determined to not fall behind in her education. While Lord was acclimatising to the Australian school system, her brothers were starting over in their degrees, beginning from scratch to undertake their engineering studies that they had both almost completed in Iraq.

“I was 16 years old and had no knowledge or experience of the English language. I studied English for six months and decided to challenge myself and start Year 11 in high school, so I didn’t fall behind.

“Six months of language study was not enough. I faced a lot of challenges. I could understand the task, I would know the answer in my head. But I struggled to write. Through these difficulties, I discovered my love of maths and my passion for technology.”

After completing Year 12, Lord successfully applied for Early Entry to UOW, to study telecommunications engineering. The choice, for Lord, was easy; the University is one of the best in the world for engineering. It was also the place where her brothers had attended, and that held a special connection for Lord.

“UOW gave a second chance to my brothers to redo their engineering degrees. I knew it was a place that valued multiculturalism and helped students to succeed.”

Lord Thabet, centre in her graduation gown and cap, with her brother Fadi to the left and her brother Majd to the right. Photo: Andy Zakeli

Fadi, Lord and Majd Thabet on Lord's graduation day.

Lord was drawn to the field of technology, to how engineering intersects with the digital age. Throughout her degree, and now beyond graduation, she has established herself as a future leader in the field.

But engineering was not always the first choice for Lord. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a doctor. But her interest in mathematics, and fascination with the potential of technology, culminated in a change of direction once she arrived in Australia.

“I started looking into the different fields of engineering and discovered how important telecommunications is. Not only can we help people to get the best internet service, but we can also understand the fundamentals of networking to help secure and protect people’s data.”

In the past few years, Lord has been named a Student Ambassador for Engineers Australia, received the Westpac Young Technologist Scholarship, and been a student mentor for the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, and Learning Labs mentor. She has also undertaken extensive internships, with Optus and Hearing Australia (Federal Government Agency), which have enabled her to showcase her capabilities while gaining hands-on experience in the field.  Her time at Optus sparked a love of cyber security that has influenced the trajectory of Lord’s career, while Hearing Australia gave her the opportunity to grow and learn in the cyber security and networking space.

Lord’s time at UOW was instrumental in providing her with tangible opportunities to broaden her horizons and skills, but also gave her an insight into what it means to be a leader. She believes strongly in volunteering and giving back, in the notion that everyone can succeed if given the right tools and support.

It is a driving force for Lord because it is a story that she has lived, from the moment her family left Iraq and made the decision to begin again. 

“I love volunteering and giving back to the community. When I first arrived in Australia with my family, we had no knowledge of how life is working here. We had to ask and learn everything from scratch by ourselves, including applying to university and gaining jobs,” Lord said.

“So, I promised myself that I will give back to the people and community. Everyone deserves an opportunity to help them to succeed and thrive. This opportunity can be as simple as helping them navigate the university portal or as important as sharing my experience in how to secure an internship.” 

When asked what drives her to succeed, despite the obstacles she has faced, Lord said she is inspired by her family and her deep interest in her field of study.

My family gave up on a lot of things just to see me graduate and becoming an engineer and also follow my role model's path,” Lord said. “My passion is also driving me to succeed. I love technology and how crazily it's shaping our future. I feel a responsibility to improve and develop security in technology and  sensitive information.”

Dawood, Fadi, Lord, Majd and Reem Thabet at graduation day. Lord wears a blue graduation gown and cap, while the rest of the family wear burgundy suits and a dress. They are close together and all smiling. Photo: Andy Zakeli

Lord celebrates her graduation with (from left) her father Dawood, her brother Fadi, her brother Majd, and her mother Reem. 

When Lord celebrates her graduation from UOW this week, she will be joined by her extremely proud family, including her siblings Fadi and Majd, to mark the occasion.

“I can’t wait to see the proud appearance on my parents’ faces in the graduation ceremony when my name will be called. That is just a simple gift for them to what they have suffered to see my brothers and I succeed in our lives.

“They are the proudest parents in the world after seeing their kids as professional engineers, having graduated from one of the best universities in the world.”

Now a Security Analyst at Hearing Australia, Lord remains incredibly grateful for her time at UOW and for all she gained from the experience.

I feel joyful, delighted and lucky to be the third engineer in the family. It's a very special moment for me because I'm graduating from UOW, the same university that gave a second chance to both of my brothers to redo their engineering degrees.”